The recent struggle of the Ukrainian people against president Yanukovych's rule, originally named as the Euromaidan, is a vivid illustration of the emerging brave new world. While the political crisis in Ukraine is still not completely resolved, several important observations can be made already. I would like to put forward three main theses here. First, Maidan is a manifestation of the battle between a nation-state and a corporation-state. Second, Maidan is a form of nation-building and reinforcement of the nation-state. And third, Maidan is a new and effective form of civil resistance in the post-modern world. I will first provide a background for each argument, then make a connection with the Ukrainian case, and finally demonstrate implications for the rest of the world.
Ukrainian state-building: nation-state vs. corporation-state
It has been claimed that globalization as a political and economic phenomenon of the later capitalism has weakened the national dimension of nation-states. The majority of scholars agree that nation-states are undergoing transformations. Yet the question is what these transformations will result in. Some speak about the world government, others advocate for civilizations, while still others highlight regional economies. Yet another opinion is that we are witnessing the birth of the corporation-state, a candidate for replacing the 'outdated' nation-state that reached its peak of development in the period of 1850-1970's. Corporation-state is an entity of a primarily economic character (vs. political in a nation-state) aimed at minimizing costs and expenses. Once economic competitiveness is declared to be the main objective of a state, its social and national components recede into background. The state starts acting as a corporation ruled by the economic effectiveness of the “survival of the fittest”.
Corporation-state must not be confused with the corporative (social) states like Italy in the 1920-1930's or Germany in the period of 1933-1945. The main features of corporation-state are desocialization, denationalization and deterritorization. While the 'social face' of the nation-state is a welfare state, corporation-state excludes 'extra' population since the market is regarded more important than social sphere, freedom than equality and justice, and police than army. This process has been conceptualized already in sociology by the '20:80' theory, meaning 20 per cent of the rich versus 80 per cent of the poor with no middle class which will be used as 'raw material' by the newly emerging corporation-states.
The process of constructing corporation-states is taking place all over the world. It is slower where there are civil societies, strong religious, historic and cultural traditions (especially non-Western ones) or national identities, or where the states are big in their territories. Where is nothing to confront with, the process is sweeping and even violent. The post-Soviet states, and Ukraine in particular, have been a vivid manifestation of the process.
In this regard, Maidan has been the struggle against such corporation-state built up by Viktor Yanukovych at the Ukrainian territory. In fact, similar systems are emerging in Russia, US, Europe, and even China with its strong influence of tradition and culture onto statecraft. However, it is Yanukovych who created the system of the criminal corporatocracy that other countries are yet to witness. In this system the state literally does not exist, with state authorities transforming into criminal structures aimed at serving corporate oligarch business at the expense of the middle class.
Why did this struggle became so fierce in Ukraine, and not any other place? Perhaps because the crisis of capitalism first starts from its peripheries, and only then moving to the core. It cannot be denied, however, that Maidan – as the battlefield of the nation-state against corporation-state – has made a tremendous contribution to the global justice movement, starting from anti-globalist protests and up until most recent “Occupy Wall-Street” movement and its affiliates.
As a preliminary conclusion, the case of Ukrainian Maidan demonstrates that only a renaissance of nation-state, and welfare-state as part of it, with individuals united for a common cause may be a viable alternative to “book a place” in the brave new world. It is this alternative that, optimistically, will make the world politically more stable and acceptable. This is a winding a road through thorns yet to the stars. As we all know, there is no victory without a battle.
Ukrainian nation-building: the “third way”
To restate one of the points above, the world of nation-states is irrevocably changing. This means not only the states as political entities, but the nations themselves are transforming too. Again, I assert that it is ultimately the struggle of the nation-state against corporation-state that will shape the future of nations. In this regard, Ukrainian Maidan gives room for interesting observations. Before looking into this however, let me recap definitions of some of the terms to be used.
A nation can be understood as either as a community of people with a common ethnicity, language and culture, or a political community of citizens of a sovereign state. The two approaches can be even combined by viewing a nation as a transformed ethnic group that acquired its sovereignty and statehood. The most important, however, is that a nation consists of individuals; it cannot be formed from tribes, clans, castes or other communities. These collective forms embrace individuals and prevent nation-building. It is not by chance that nations began to appear in Western Europe in the 17th - 19th centuries with the decomposition of communities of a pre-modern (traditional, or agrarian) society. While ethnic groups have existed throughout the world history, nations appear only in the modern (industrial) society.
We are now witnessing signs of the end of the Modern epoch that has lasted for about five hundred years. During this phase of historical development nations have been an important part of social classification and identification, in contrast to ethnic, religious, tribal and other forms of self-identification in the Pre-modern epoch. Moreover, emergence and rise of nations brought about nation-states that became the main form of political organization and proved to be effective in uniting populations of respective countries. Two important questions arise here. First, considering ethnic groups organize people in the traditional society, while nations do so in the modern one, what will the next development be in the Post-modern epoch? And second, if nations transform into something else (like ethnic groups did into nations), what type of identification will appear to replace the national identities?
Several possible scenarios can be drawn based on the existing empirical as well deducted data. These can be named the post-modern scenario, the counter-modern one and finally, the alternative way. Thus, in the first scenario the community of nations is to be replaced by a global non-ethnic post-modern society. On the practical policy level, the attempt to achieve this has been made in the European Union, for example, via the policy of multiculturalism. This strive for a global non-ethnic post-modern society, however, has been unsuccessful so far. The policy of multiculturalism has actually failed, with nationalism rising throughout the EU, and the political leaders of Great Britain, Germany and France advocating publicly for strengthening their nations.
However, it is the counter-modern scenario that has been pushed forward most of all. This is manifested in the already discussed emergence of corporation-states as opposed to nation-states, which inevitably leads to open conflicts like the one revealed by the Ukrainian Maidan. It is a counter-modern process as it re-invites the features of a pre-modern, or traditional society. For example, corporation-states keep the same characteristics of community (vs. individual in nation-states) and hierarchy, with the difference that now corporations act as communities. Also, compared to all other state forms, corporation-state is an exclusive, not inclusive entity with neo-patrimonial, neo-communal features. Finally, while a community is basic social element of a traditional society (forming ethnic groups), and an individual is the basic element in a modern society (forming nations), it is a clan that is an essential element of the corporation-state in the new world. Thus, counter-modern is a type of society similar to pre-modern, but artificially implanted in the Modern and Post-modern epochs.
To make a connection with the Ukrainian Maidan, it is worth asking why the world leaders were so slow and reluctant to impose the long-awaited sanctions against the Ukrainian governmental officials and oligarchs. This happened because the world ruling class received an excellent testing area for experimenting with the conflicts between representatives of the old national identity and the new criminal and corporate one.
There is yet an alternative way that may define the shape of nations in the new world. As already mentioned, European states are actually seeking to solidify nations in view of the ongoing crisis which is financial and economic on the top, but rather deep and structural in essence. In this regard, promoting nationalism as a way to strengthen a nation may become a necessity in the post-modern society. However, the idea of nation in this case will need to be re-determined. While in the Pre-Modern epoch people are organized via collective forms (communities), and in the Modern epoch communities decompose into social atoms (individuals) to create nations, in the Post-Modern epoch individuals must re-unite in collective forms in order to cope with the challenges posed. There is a major difference here though. In the traditional society man exists only as a community member, and does not see himself outside of it (if he leaves, then he leaves for another community). He cannot have interests other that those of the community (like a leg cannot strive to get away from a body). In the alternative scenario proposed, collectivism means uniting efforts of individuals in order to achieve a common goal; it implies having an individual who may have both common goals with the others as well his own ones. Collectivism is therefore a dialectic, and not an absolute opposite of individualism.
Maidan has been an excellent embodiment of the above principle. It has become an important element of nation-building, gave birth to new heroes, reinforced and expanded the boundaries of the community known as the Ukrainian nation. It is impossible to foresee which of the three scenarios discussed will take place in which parts of the world. Nor is it possible to tell whether national identities will be strengthened, or will fade away together with nation-states to give place to global and corporate identities. Still, the case of Ukraine may serve as an example that nation-building – ideally both from the bottom (by people) and top (by political elites) – is crucial in order to cope with the challenges of the newly emerging world order.
Ukrainian civil protest: from territorial to network communities
Maidan has also demonstrated the power of social networks in a civil protest. Network is the most effective communications system that can compete effectively with the state and corporate media. In this regard, social networks have proved indispensable in the conflict nation-state vs. corporation-state. By 'social network' here I mean not only any physical Internet networks like Facebook or Twitter that helped disclose the truth despite numerous manipulations in mass media. This is also a network of citizens that provide mutual trust, respect and cooperation. Yet most importantly, this is a principle of self-organization of the previously 'territorial' local communities. These communities managed to organize themselves into trusted connections and stand up against the system of criminal corporatocracy. Ukraine has survived so many times against the will of the state, that its civil society has now little or no affiliation with the state structures.
Maidan demonstrates that the network principle increases dramatically the capacity for survival in the conflict between the nation-state and the corporation-state. No state and corporate means can suppress an entity that can quickly and efficiently re-appear in any other place. Geography is no longer important for the networks of mutual supportiveness and donation. No criminal system can exist for a long time against the people's morale transformed into network communities.
Perhaps Maidan is a prototype of the alternative world. Its separate elements of the territorial, professional, and interest communities, as well political structures (such as the Council of Maidan) are able to give a viable response to the challenges of the system of criminal corporatocracy. Maidan as a phenomenon is a new reality of communities that make a nation rise against the corporation-state appearing all over the world. This is the reason why even the biggest political players, like US, Europe, Russia and China, are afraid of Maidan.
As a conclusion, Ukrainian Maidan is ultimately a reaction and a vector of resistance to the construction of the corporation-state. It is also is a dramatic example that there is a need for reinforcement of the nation-state (and the welfare-state as economic dimension of the nation-state) in order to cope with the challenges of the newly emerging world order. Finally, it shows that the concept of nation in the post-modern world needs to be redefined as a community of individuals united within the borders of a nation-state under the principles of collectivism and solidarity. Only a 'refined' nation-state with individuals united for a common cause may be a viable alternative to a corporation-state. The current situation, even if not on the brink of disaster yet, will become so by the middle of the 21st century or even earlier. This will be the moment of truth for the leaders and peoples, the moment of final choice between a nation-state and a corporation-state, between existence and non-being.